2003-03-22 / Columnists

Chatting with Chapey

Lobbying in Albany to Protect Aging Services:
by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader
Chatting with Chapey

Chatting with Chapey

Lobbying in Albany to Protect Aging Services: Stop the Budget Cuts
Dr. Geraldine ChapeyDr. Geraldine Chapey

by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader

During this week I joined advocates for seniors in Albany in lobbying to protect services for seniors. Senior advocates came from across the state to meet with elected officials to press for improved services for seniors. AARP New York organized this state-wide lobbying effort. We lobbied to improve many senior initiatives including EPIC and SSI.

Several weeks ago (on February 8) I devoted my column to alert seniors about the benefits of EPIC. The plan allows seniors to purchase prescription drugs at a reduced rate. EPIC has been extremely successful in helping seniors. Since EPIC's inception, over 555,000 seniors have been able to purchase drugs at a reduced rate thereby saving approximately $1.8 billion at the drug store. In 2002, the average senior participant saved $1,975.

Governor Pataki's recent budget proposal indicates a spending level of $578 million for EPIC in 2003-04.  This includes an increase of $93 million.  However, Governor Pataki's budget for this year also proposes to reduce the EPIC benefit spending by $38 million. His proposals include (a) a reduction in reimbursement to druggists thereby saving $34.1 million; (b) a 10% increase in deductibles and co-pays at a savings of $4 million; and (c) requiring prior authorization for prescription drugs through the EPIC program supposedly for health and safety reasons.

The AARP position is that they "recognize the need to control costs for the program and would support prior authorization and preferred drug list programs for EPIC if they guarantee access to medications in an efficient and timely manner and cost measures were not based solely on the price of the drugs".

AARP made it clear that they are concerned with the increases in co-pays and deductibles.  The schedules for the program were instituted within the last two years and have enabled hundreds of thousands of older New Yorkers to participate in the program.  Increasing fees presents problems for recipients.  It is imperative that this get serious consideration and that relief is provided for seniors. Another very important issue that was brought to the attention of elected officials was Supplemental Security Income or SSI. Individuals re­ceive a monthly income of $639 and couples get $933 per month. Those figures include a payment by the state of $87 for single adults and $104 to couples. The federal government does provide a small cost of living adjustment (COLA).  New York State does add a state payment to the federal one.  However, this year the state budget proposes to save $25 million and $100 million dollars each year following by reducing from the state allotment the amount of the federal COLA. The AARP position is that this budget cut is not acceptable.  The federal COLA increase this year is $7 for a single person and $12 for a couple.  If this proposal goes through it would deny seniors this minimal COLA and would severely adversely affect them.  It is important that New York State continue its support for SSI participants.

Please contact Governor George Pataki's office at 1-212-681-4580, or write to the Governor at The Executive Chamber, Capitol, Albany, New York 12224, to support the EPIC and SSI programs.

Congratulations to Josephine McPartland.  Her family gave her a wonderful surprise birthday party at the Harbor Light. What a magnificent family she raised. Her children, grandchildren, friends and relatives were there to celebrate Josephine's life.  Josephine who is always effervescent, outgoing and gregarious was truly surprised.  It was thrilling to watch her as she walked around the room to greet everyone. Josephine McPartland always reaches out to help people.  She is a leader who enjoys friends. Josephine McPartland is one of the founding members of Trinity Services (among her many other accomplishments).  She always comes to meetings with new and innovative ideas.  Some people stand around and say - why?  Josephine looks at issues and always says - why not!  Josephine McPartland will be one of the honorees at the Trinity Services luncheon on Wednesday, April 30th at 12 Noon, at Russo's on the Bay. 

Congratulations most certainly go to Steve Yaeger an artist, author and photographer on his winning second prize in the Gateway National Recreation Area 2002 Photography Contest.  The winning photo was taken on one of the paths in our local Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Over one hundred photos were entered in the contest.  According to Dave Taft, a park official, the 2002 photo contest had the "most professional photographs ever submitted to date". The submissions were very well done and it was difficult to select the winners because of the excellent quality of the photos.  Steve Yaeger is not only talented - he is a person who is willing to share his talents with everyone.  He personally drew the holiday card sent out by the RMAC. It was truly magnificent.  He has created many masterpieces. Steve and his wife Judy are assets to our community.  They are important resources as members of the Board of Directors of the Rockaway Music and Arts Council (RMAC).  Steve Yaeger is the editor of the RMAC Newsletter which is very professionally done.  Everyone is cordially invited to RMAC's open meeting on Wednesday, April 2, 2003, at 8 p.m. at my office at 104-02 Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Please attend. Ku-dos to Steve and Judy Yarger.

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